philosophy

Joy Friday

by Howard Hain

The best part of getting a gift is the opening and receiving.

No matter how grateful we are to have the gift, the excitement of “having” is never equal to the excitement of “opening” and “receiving”.

Christ’s death is the gift.

The actual hour of the agony, the arrest, the abandonment, the trial, the mocking, the spitting, the carrying, the nailing, the hanging…it is all the “unwrapping”. The unwrapping of a great gift, the greatest gift.

Because we know the resurrection happens. That it has happened. We live post-resurrection.

The gift is the death. The unwrapping the method of the torture.

Good Friday is the closest we come to being alive during his dying process.

The Liturgy falls down.

“I AM” is too big.

Heaven will not allow distance. The Liturgy in all its greatness is still a distance.

No liturgy. No sacraments.

Heaven is total Union.

Heaven on earth is the unwrapping and receiving of the greatest gift.

Heaven on earth is the joy of Jesus being tortured. The joy of Jesus dying.

‘Paradox’ is too little of a word.

‘Mystery’ means nothing in relation to the reality.


“…he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.”

—Mark 14:52


 

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philosophy

Speak Life

sandro-botticelli-the-last-communion-of-saint-jerome-early-1490s-detail

Botticelli, “The Last Communion of Saint Jerome”, early 1490s, (detail), The Met


Heal us.

In the form of bread.

Our tongues like cribs.

You come to rest.

A sacred place.

A mother watches.

A father can hardly believe.

Greatness simply conceived.

Silent.

Yes let us be.

Help us not to speak.

No words can be.

No thoughts except those that flee.

Yes.

Hold our tongues.

Into quiet place.

Stillness.

Let us wait.

Till hear You cry.

A hungry child.

Tucked in for night.

A drop of milk.

In reality blood.

In the form of wine.

The angels sing.

Holiness explodes.

Heaven down to earth.

Saints to and fro.

Blessings forth.

Grace abounds.

The sick are healed.

The blind can see.

The lonely find friends.

Children unwanted?

They finally reach home.

We look.

We see.

We wonder.

How could it be?

It’s Him!

It’s Him.

Right there.

The One nailed to the tree.

Alive again.

Within my mouth.

And at my right hand.

And to the left.

And straight ahead.

And there!

Yes, there too!

In that hopeless situation.

We thought all was lost.

But, no, it’s Him.

He really does care.

And He calls us over.

To Himself.

And yes.

Silence changes forms.

It’s again time to speak.

What else can we do?

The Eternal One.

The Son of Man.

The Conqueror of Strife.

Let us smile at one another.

Let us speak life.


 

—Howard Hain

 

(May/2017)

Web Link: Botticelli, “The Last Communion of Saint Jerome”, The Met

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philosophy

Le Madras Rouge

by Howard Hain


henri-matisse-red-madras-headdress-le-madras-rouge-1907

Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
“Red Madras Headdress (Le Madras rouge)” 1907, Oil on canvas, The Barnes Foundation


Rosy cheeks

Crimson lips

A funky handkerchief upon your head

Taking a break from cleaning?

Or just pretending?

Ah!

Perhaps a gypsy?

No, perhaps all three.

———

Yes

More to be seen

A portrait from the past

A figure of old

A testament

Of what’s redeemed

A harlot

No more

Seven demons

Cast away

Setting sail

Completely freed

Eyes on distant shores

Flag full staff

Bones properly buried

A pirate turned parakeet

Pastels all a flutter

Colors abound

Novelty renewed

A romance for sure

Mysterious winds

Exotic islands

Far off lands

Yet so close

Milk and honey

Set before

Within arm’s reach

Right and just

An adopted child

Now full heir

———

Innocence discovered

Virginity returns

Chastity on full display

Fact as fiction

Stories unfold

Promises foretold

A man and then a woman

A rib and a garden

A paradise and nothing to do

A lie and a sneaky snake

A revolving sword

Set a fire

Brother against brother

An ark that floats

Sent off in twos

A raven and a dove

A father in faith

Journey unknown

A far-flung place

Boys will be boys

Brotherly mischief

Here we go again

Slavery and sphinx

Mercy tries once more

Thru the red gate

Chariots and legions

Encased in sea

Wandering and wandering

“Listen to me!”

Bread from heaven

Fowl falling from the skies

Striking rocks

Water shoots forth

Time to settle down

Conquer some giants

Crisscross a river

An ark on two poles

A new occupied land

Vineyards and fields

Laws and oaths

Judges and kings

Forgetting and forgetting

Just who it is

Who gives them life

What is God to do with such a man?

The shepherd boy

Last in line

One more try

Singing psalms

Prophecy

He fits the mold

The mind of Christ

We are told

———

A tiny young woman

A just upright man

Stables and sages

Stars and circumcision

“The carpenter’s son?”

Yes, crafting a table

To stand upheld

Shape of a cross

Used too as a crib

A born-again bed

For those about to die

Back to a table

A kingdom spread

A feast to behold

The Son not spared

The Bread of Life

Broken and blessed

“Father forgive them…”

“They know not what they do…”

———

Mary of Magdala

First to the tomb

Her and the gardener

Alone and renewed

“Mary”

“Rabboni!”

“Don’t yet cling to me”

“But what then shall I do?”

Sit and stare

Inwardly explore

Externally ignore

Signs of the past

Others still may see

But within your chamber

Mine all mine

Extra virgin

The Garden of Eve

Betrothed and beautified

Originality set free

No trace of sin to fall

Now cover your hair

You are my bride!

For you I shall return

A dove within a cleft

Won’t be left alone

———

A handmaid

A wife

A disciple

A model

A muse

Positioned in a cane-back chair

Awaiting the Word

To open the door

Now

Yes now

An acceptable time

Behold

“I stand”

“I knock”

“I AM”

Open the door:

“Lift high your heads…”

“Grow higher, ancient doors…”

“Let him enter, the king of glory!”


henri-matisse-red-madras-headdress-le-madras-rouge-1907

Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
“Red Madras Headdress (Le Madras rouge)” 1907, Oil on canvas, The Barnes Foundation


 

(June/2017)

 

Web Link: Matisse, Le Madras Rouge, Barnes Foundation 

 

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philosophy

The Best Coinage The World Has Ever Known


You can run but you can’t hide. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

What a world it would be if we only spoke in clichés.

Is it the kind of world you and I live in?

Do we retreat into beaten-down meadows, like deer who lay where others have already flattened the grass?

There’s less work I suppose. And the grass may still be warm.

But it’s also kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

You can enter a home that isn’t yours, you can search for a bed that fits just right, but at the end of the day your cover will be blown.

You can run but you can’t hide.

After all, you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

Perhaps it is such lying that is really the apple.

For picking fruit from someone else’s tree has never been a good idea.

Those kind of apples certainly keep the good doctor away.

But I guess we also have to be careful to not over-correct.

We must not out of pride be unwilling to enter where others have already been.

No, that is wisdom. We should go where others have gone before. It just depends on who they were and where they went.

And no matter what, we shouldn’t hide within those spaces, pretend that they are our own, and perhaps worst of all, act as if we are the first to ever have entered—delusion of this kind leads us to the belief that we create anything at all.

We don’t.

Think of Adam in the Garden. God is busy whipping up the entire universe from out of nothing. Creating and sculpting, adding and adapting, breathing life into His new world. And Adam, well, he’s one of the building blocks. Yes, certainly a favorite. A favorite that God does not want to be alone.

And something spectacular takes place:

The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals… (Genesis 18-20)

God created, Adam named.

It is simply amazing. And humbling.

What an honor. And what a clear indicator of who is truly in charge.

We create nothing. That’s the bad news for those who want to be God.

We do though participate in the ongoing unfolding of God’s perfect and eternal world. We even seem to share the leading role. That’s the Good News for those who believe.

For our work is not to create. We simply can’t. Only God can. And even if we “build” with what is already in existence, if we seemingly “create” something “new” with the building blocks we find already lying around, that “pseudo-creation” still isn’t our primary job.

Then what is?

Well, the original disciples of Jesus had a similar wonder:

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:28-29)

And there’s the crux of it, if you will.

Adam, we must remember, when in the supremely honorable position of naming God’s creatures was still naked, and he felt “no shame.” He hadn’t yet eaten what wasn’t his. He was not yet hiding “among the trees of the garden.” He still believed in the One Who Sends.

Adam was faithful. Adam was original. Adam knew he was God’s creation. And Adam was free to roam.

But Adam used his freedom to choose to become a slave.

Adam’s fall was a fall into self. A fall into creation, the creation of a great lie, that man creates on the same level as God.

It was a great fall. So steep was the cliff off which he went that no other story could ever bring more meaning to the most hackneyed line: “Once upon a time…”

Adam’s fall is a fall into denomination.

A fall into the church of self.

A fall into complete and utter cliché.

And it brought death to the great privilege of cooperating with God, of naming and stewarding on His behalf His created world.

But thanks be to God.

For someone truly original, and creative, finally came round.

He put the apple back up upon the tree and told the snake to take a hike.

His name is Jesus.

He is also called The Son of Man.

But of course we are free to just call Him God.

For about Jesus, nothing is cliché.

It is very clear, there’s absolutely no running or hiding when it comes to the Cross.

And when it comes to His love for us, there’s no apple that can keep the Divine Physician away.


 

—Howard Hain

 

(Jan/17)

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Portrait of the Catholic as a Middle-Aged Man

DP158522

Georges Seurat, “Aman-Jean (Portrait of Edmond Francois Aman-Jean)”, 1882-83, (The Met)


So much is not seen.

What is heard hardly tells the story.

The hairline leaves little to gaze upon.

A good sergeant, he worries little about appearances.

He often feels what he believes is slipping away beneath his feet.

The commands barked from above seem detached from the situation on the ground.

He follows orders anyway.

To many he is somewhat of a joke.

A puppet. A man who can’t think for himself.

Some may even use the word ‘coward’.

But none of this is accurate of course.

No, he is a man of honor.

A noble-man.

He takes his vows and commitments seriously.

He will protect his wife. He will raise his children.

He will stand when others hide.

He will walk forward when others turn away.

Firm and steadfast.

He lives out daily the faith of his fathers.

Quietly and efficiently as possible.

No, he’s certainly not perfect.

And of this he is very conscious.

So much so he wonders often if God has chosen the wrong man.

And this is saving grace.

Humility is purgatorial.

It burns away the dross.

It polishes the trophy.

It propels him to love to heroic measures.

It keeps him around, in the game, engaged, alive, an active participant.

As much as it hurts, he knows it’s true, and he carries on, toward the goal.

Toward what he cannot see, toward what he certainly does not understand.

This man is a hero of faith.

And at the same time he is just another Joe.

Another Tom, Dick or Harry.

But in heaven, when all is said and done, he shall receive a crown.

His cross finally laid down, he shall finally see it as a walking stick.

A beautifully-crafted staff in the hand of a just and upright man.

A righteous upholder of God’s eternal law.

Then he shall take his place, very close to the King and Queen, right beside that other unknown man named Joe.

That common nobody led by angels and mocked by men.

The one chosen by God to raise the Messiah.

For where you find the anonymous man of whom I speak, you too shall discover the Holy Family.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

On earth as it is in heaven.

A little humble home in the middle of nowhere.

An eternal kingdom emanating all that is good.


 

—Howard Hain

 

Web Link: Met Museum of Art

 

(Dec/2016)

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